On Forcing Change - and Why You Needn't

Do you ever find yourself getting anxious and impatient when working toward a goal or trying to make a change? It's very easy to do. All around us are stories of overnight successes, or movies and books in which the path of a character is so clear with obstacles overcome so naturally before ending happily with no loose ends. In our own lives, it's really easy to feel like change is occurring at a glacial pace, but I assure you it is not. The Facebook "On This Day" app does an excellent job of reminding us exactly where we were and what we were doing on this day in past years. For example, April 28, 2014, J, Coco and I were returning to Zurich after our amazing Italian road trip. I wrote, "So thankful to be home. No wait at the Gotthard Tunnel AND a blue parking space on our street. Incredible! A little sad to think that Coco and I will be on US soil in just 8 weeks. Zurich really feels like coming home. <3"

Incidentally, that is not a day I need to be reminded of, but rather one that I've thought of often over the past two years. I distinctly remember my gut sinking when we crossed the border into Switzerland. It was a rainy and misty day, chilly compared to the sunny Amalfi Coast. We were tired and worn out as you always are at the end of a trip. We crossed over into Switzerland, the Swiss flag flying all around us. We paid in Swiss Francs at the McDonald's (only on road trips!) and saw the Swisscom service re-appear on our phones. It felt so good, so right. It was like burrowing into a warm cozy womb. I knew right then, sitting in the McDonald's, watching Coco play in the play area, that we were making a terrible mistake.

Fast forward one year later to April 28, 2015. I posted this photo of Theo in that dreadful, freezing Minnesota kitchen, with the caption, "It won't be long now! (He *just* started crawling!!) #pullingup #walkingsoon #sweetbabytheo"

Just look at that gorgeous boy who was still in utero the year before! He has changed and grown so much. Today, he's running full speed and pulling his sister's hair. Although I realized that day in the McDonald's that we were making a mistake, I understand now that I tried to force the change anyway for two reasons. One, because it really did seem too late, and two, because I believed it was the right thing to do. No. Not the right thing; I believed it was the only thing to do.

Without even realizing it, we humans operate on and make choices in our lives based on truths we hold to be fact. These are undeniable personal truths, akin to needing air to breathe, or the sky being blue. Two truths I now understand I was operating on back in 2014 were that 1). Our time in Zurich always had to be temporary, and 2). It's a non-negotiable requirement to live near family.

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know just how jarring and disorienting it was to have these held truths clash with reality. It's no surprise that I've been anxious to get back to Zurich since before we left.

The big lesson I've learned over the past two years is that if we can pay attention to, and trust the process of change, the actual facts will challenge our held truths in the little moments that reveal our true desires. The moment I unpacked our iMac in the US and had to order a new power cord from Apple because the grounded Swiss plug wouldn't work with adapters was a revealing moment for me. I completed the call with Apple and then, instead of throwing away the useless Swiss cord, I tucked it carefully back into the box, just in case we needed it again some day. Another revealing moment was when we got to Spokane. I couldn't bring myself to commit to life here in any significant way. We could have bought a house, but we didn't. We decided to rent and then J decided to go back to school for some further qualifications that would work here - but also back in Switzerland. The actions in these moments revealed our true desires.

Once you understand your true desires, you can often uncover the held truths that may be holding you back. Despite understanding this, I'm still unraveling and separating the actual facts from my held truths. Watching Coco and Theo run full speed all over the park the other day, I realized that the change and transition we're going through is actually progressing exactly as it should and there is no need to force or rush anything. Change only feels slow while it's happening, when we don't know where it's going. I trust that once I'm looking back on all of this, I will see that the path was clear, the obstacles overcome naturally, and that it all happened quickly, the happy resolution leaving no loose ends.

What true desires do your actions reveal to you? Do you operate based on held truths that aren't actual facts? Do you trust the process of change? I'd love to hear your insights. xo


  1. This is so wise and every word rings true. I think we also make life changing decisions quickly, then as the consequences unravel over the years they reveal the depth and breadth of the initial choice. Case in point, we fled the city for the countryside almost on a whim, a choice that brought deep joy into our lives and probably resulted in our becoming parents sooner than we had envisioned (all that fresh air πŸ˜‰). But, it's also had a major impact on my career, in that my attachment to this place is so deep I cannot bear to leave it and chase my old professional dreams. I guess we will see in a decade where things stand.

    Love love love this blog. Would love to meet up with you in Spokane one day- my uncle lives up in Sandpoint so it's the nearest airport if we brave the journey from the UK. By then you'll probably be back in Zurich!

    1. Lucy, that is just so crazy you have a relative in Sandpoint! Thanks for pointing out that consequences can be really positive, too. When I think of going back to Zurich, I focus on everything that could go wrong while completely ignoring that things could go right, and also forgetting that when we moved there in 2010, I had the same worries and it was fabulous. You are so right! Life is full of surprises. I hope that you embrace being in a place you love and the focus on parenting right now and that life surprises you with the career angle at some point, too! xoxoxo

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  3. Oh how I know what you mean! Just today I stared at a random American power cord and thought if I should give it away. Or keep it!!! Who knows what the future brings, right? You back in Switzerland and me back in the United States...
    Right now I'm trying to focus on today (and maybe tomorrow) and not stress about what's going to happen in a couple of months or the future in general. It's hard but it helps, especially in those moments when I just want to hide under my blanket and not deal with anything related to moving!

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